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Feaster: A Guest Blog

FoodCycle Feaster pop-up fundraiser - volunteers preparing food.

This blogpost is by Megan Owen, who volunteered with us at the event. It was originally published here. Thanks Megan!

Event: FoodCycle and Love Food Hate Waste Feaster

Food waste is a global issue, and in the UK alone it has been reported that we throw away one third of all of the food that we buy. This amounts to more than 7 million tonnes of waste each year, which, as well as being incredibly harmful to the environment, costs £12 billion!

One great charity working to fight against the impact of food waste, as well as food poverty, is FoodCycle, whose aim is to redirect the edible food that is thrown out by retailers each year.

With hubs located around the UK, FoodCycle helps and encourages local communities to set up groups of volunteers that collect surplus food. The food is then used to prepare nutritious meals in unused professional kitchen spaces, which are served to people who do not have access to healthy foods for a variety of reasons, such as a lack of income or a lack of knowledge about nutrition and healthy eating.

To raise awareness of their work, and to demonstrate how surplus food can be used to feed faces rather than bins, FoodCycle held a Feaster pop-up restaurant event at the Museum of the Order of St John, in Clerkenwell, on Thursday 28 March 2013. Partnering with the national Love Food Hate Waste Campaign, the evening saw 90 guests treated to a delicious five course vegetarian banquet, with dishes made largely using food that would have otherwise been thrown away for a number of different reasons. For example, retailers may have considered food to have been the wrong shape, size or colour; a certain item may have been over ordered; there may have been typos on food labels; or, there may have been cosmetic damage to packaging.

Although I would have loved to have been one of the paying guests waited on during the evening, I wanted to show my support for FoodCycle by attending the event as a volunteer, which was a highly rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Held in the stunning Chapter Hall of the museum, the setting for the event was beautiful and atmospheric, and as groups of strangers tucked into their food, I found it amazing how an experience focused on an issue in the here and now was being explored in a place decked with history.

The food served during the evening was of an incredibly high standard, perfectly proving that surplus food is more than suitable for consumption. Designed by FoodCycle’s talented catering team, the menu comprised of the following:

 

Aperitif

Cava with mango and strawberry puree

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Canapés

Pesto and roasted cherry tomato tartlets
Crostini with surplus aged cheddar and apple & plum chutney

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Starter by Valentine Warner

Beetroot with ravigote sauce

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Main

Whole-roasted and stuffed sweet onions, served on roasted garlic & red pepper puree, topped with crumbled stilton

Served with:
Puy lentil salad
Fresh tomato salad with rocket, cress, and peashoots
Crushed new potatoes

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Dessert

Chocolate dipped poached pears with apricot-pecan stuffing and chilli-vanilla sabayon
Served with fresh berries and mint

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Final Sweet Treat

Mini meringues hand-dipped in chocolate

Having had the opportunity to try the food, I particularly enjoyed the stuffed sweet onions. They were absolutely delicious, with the different components working together to offer a range of flavours and textures. The meringues were also incredibly moreish – so simple and uncomplicated, but so delicious!

Overall, the evening was a truly enjoyable experience to have participated in. It was really rewarding to have had the opportunity to work amongst a truly passionate team of people, and all of the FoodCycle workers that I had the pleasure of meeting at the event were clearly driven by their work and dedicated to the FoodCycle cause. This was inspiring to see, and made me keen to do more to help, and there’s lots you can do too!

To support FoodCycle in their efforts, why not think about how you and your family can work to reduce your own food waste in your home? Taking simple steps to reduce food waste can be highly effective, and it’s really not that hard to take a proactive approach!

The following is taken from an article I wrote for Green Living magazine. Small but steady steps will enable the UK to make progress, so don’t throw in haste, save your waste, and rejoice in the satisfaction that you are making a difference.

  • F is for Freeze - Save room in your freezer to prolong the quality of fresh food, and to store leftover portions of home-made meals. So much food can be frozen, but check guidelines for suitability.
  • O is for Observe - Conduct regular checks so that you are aware of what food you have, in addition to expiry dates. This will enable you to make informed decisions when planning meals, and help you to use up food before it deteriorates.
  • O is also for Opt-in - Check if your local council provides facilities for food waste. With regular collections and trusty containers, your efforts towards food waste will be made easy! If you have the space and interest, you could also consider home composting – a fantastic way to engage and educate children about food waste too.
  • D is for Date - Know the lingo! If food has a ‘use-by’ date it is unlikely to be suitable for consumption much after this date. Best before dates, on the other hand, are there for guidance – the quality may start to decline, but use your initiative. If your loaf of bread still looks and feels fine, do not bin it.
  • W is for Weigh - Preparing or cooking too much food is an issue for many of us, but solutions are available. Electronic scales are an ideal kitchen companion, but you could also invest in a spaghetti measurer, use cups or handfuls to measure rice, pasta and vegetables portions, and use recipes for guidance.
  • A is for Advice - Use the wealth of information that lies at your fingertips and explore the Internet. Search council websites to see what is happening in your local area to tackle food waste, and gain inspiration from specialised websites, such as FoodCycle.
  • S is for Shopping - Plan meals in advance, and take a detailed list of what you need to buy when you go food shopping, including quantities. This way, you will only buy what you need!
  • T is for Try-it-out - Before throwing any food away, consider if there are any other uses for it. For example, staling bread can be used in bread and butter pudding, or blitzed to make breadcrumbs that can be mixed with cheese for a crunchier pasta bake topping.
  • E is for Encourage - For support and success encourage friends and family to focus on reducing food waste too! Make it fun, particularly if you have children. Why not hold competitions to create unique and imaginative names for the dishes you make from your leftovers?

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For more information about FoodCycle, visit their website. Here you can find out if there is a hub in your local area, along with other ways you can support the cause.

FoodCycle also runs a Community Café in Bromley-by-Bow in London called Pie in the Sky café. It is open Monday-Friday from 8.30am-3.30pm, with lunch served from 12-2pm.

This post originally appeared on Megan’s blog at http://london-foodie.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/event-foodcycle-and-love-food-hate

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